Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Incarnation of God

Incarnation is a word that so many people don't fully grasp. Of course we can't fully comprehend the incarnation, but we can apprehend it in Scripture. The reason we rejoice at Christmas is that the Baby born to Mary and Joseph on that very first Christmas was not an ordinary Child. As Matthew records, this Baby was the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy of Immanuel, or God with us, the ultimate self-revelation of God to humankind. Jesus, the Christ, was, and eternally is, God incarnate or God in flesh.

Although John's Gospel doesn't include a narrative of the birth and infancy of Jesus, the doctrine of the incarnation is aptly summed up in John's introduction to His Gospel where He says "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Then, says John "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

So the clear testimony of Scripture is that in the incarnation Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man; that is, Jesus Christ existed as the perfect unity in one Person of a divine and a human nature, neither co-mingling those natures nor becoming two persons. It is this miraculous incarnation of God that you and I, along with Christians worldwide, celebrate this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Were the Magi Astrologers?

I was just in San Diego, California and we did a Pastor's Appreciation luncheon there for Salem Broadcasting and got to meet a lot of pastors in the San Diego area and we engaged in a question and answer session with the pastors. One of the questions that the pastors were asking was this question about the magi and whether magi were actually astrologers, and if they were astrologers how could God lead His people through astrology.

In response I mentioned that even if the magi did practice astrology the Bible makes it crystal clear that the wise men were led by God both by means of the star which guided them to Christ and by means of the warning that kept them from returning to Herod. Contrary to the practice of astrology then, which involves divination and attempts to predict the future apart from God, the star that the magi followed was not used to foretell the future, but to forthtell the future. In other words, the Star of Bethlehem did not prophesy the birth of Christ - it pronounced the birth of Christ.

In a little booklet that I produced called Christmas Truths And Traditions I deal with many of the other traditions that have formed around the magi. While it is important to separate truth from tales when it comes to traditions which surround these magi, we must never cease to emulate their example of reverence and worship for the King of kings and Lord of lords whose birth we celebrate during Christmas.

As such, when entities like the Watchtower Society suggest that the wise men gave gifts to Christ, not to one another, we should immediately recognize that they have missed the point entirely. As Scripture makes abundantly clear, giving to others, particularly those in need, is tantamount to giving to the Lord Jesus Christ, and taking a special opportunity at Christmas to selflessly give gifts to those we love would likewise excite us, even if we have no expectation of receiving something in return.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Christmas Truths and Traditions

Every December I look forward to two things: enjoying special times with my family, the people that I love and cherish the most, and then receiving numerous, often passionate calls to the Bible Answer Man broadcast about Christmas. Others are asking questions which are theological in perspective such as "Was it a literal virgin birth? Are the Gospels really reliable?" Then there are whose who ask these cultural questions like "Is it right to have a Christmas tree this Christmas? What should we tell our children about Santa Claus?" Then a few people, perhaps misled by the claims of the Jehovah's Witnesses, have even called into question the practice of giving gifts.

Well, throw in the fact that Christmas has become a major cultural battleground - many people in our society, of course, want Christ left out of the season - the bottom line is that the holiday commemorating God's magnificent demonstration of love towards mankind has become a source of confusion.

When Christmas was originally instituted December 25th was, indeed, a pagan festival commemorating the birthday of a false god. That's a historical fact. What is frequently overlooked is that the church's choice of December 25th was intentional. Instead of merely Christianizing a pagan festival, what the church was doing was establishing a rival celebration. The world has all but forgotten the Greco-Roman gods of antiquity but they are annually reminded that two thousand years ago Christ, the hope of humanity, invaded time and space

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Jesus Christ: The Firstborn Over All Creation

I do an "Ask Hank" column in the Christian Research Journal, and in the current edition of the Journal I deal with the issue of how the eternal Son of God can at once be the firstborn over all creation and yet the eternal Creator of all things, which is a question that is being exploded by cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses to say that Jesus Christ isn't really the one who spoke and the universe leapt into existence - in fact, God created Jesus and then Jesus becomes a junior partner in creating all other things.

The way I deal with this dilemma is I point out that in referring to Christ as the firstborn Paul has in mind preeminence. This usage is firmly established in the Old Testament, which is to say that I always need to be tethered to the pillar and post of Scripture. I need to read Scripture in light of Scripture. For example, Ephraim, in the Old Testament, is referred to as the Lord's "firstborn" even though Manasseh was born first. In similar fashion David is appointed the Lord's "firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth," and this is despite the fact that he's the youngest of Jesse's sons. Neither Ephraim nor David was the first one born in the family, but they were firstborn in the sense of preeminence or "prime position."

So again, this gets to the issue of scaling the language barrier. It's not the word you use, but the meaning that is poured into the word. The biblical meaning poured into the word "firstborn" doesn't mean the first one born but the preeminent one or the one who holds the prime position.

Not only so, but Paul refers to Jesus as the firstborn over all creation, not the firstborn in creation and as such "He is before all things and in him all things hold together." The force of this language by the apostle Paul is such that the cult of the Jehovah's Witnesses, who subscribe to the ancient Arian heresy that the Son is not preexistent and coeternal with the Father, have been forced to insert the word "other." In fact, in Colossians 1 they insert this word "other" four times in the text of their deeply flawed New World Translation of the Bible in order that they can demote Jesus Christ to the status of being a mere created being.

The final point is this: the panoply of Scripture makes absolutely plain Jesus is the eternal Creator who spoke and the countless galaxies leapt into existence. For example in John 1 He is overtly called "God." In Hebrews 1 He is said to be the one who "laid the foundations of the earth." In the very last chapter of the Bible Christ refers to Himself as "the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Indeed, the whole of Scripture precludes the possibility that Christ could be anything other than the preexistent sovereign of the universe.

Again, an answer to a question that is brought up by the Jehovah's Witness on your doorstep. How do you deal with it? Well, if you have the answer you can deal with it with gentleness and with respect and point out that they're misinterpreting the language of Scripture. So again, in this and many other circumstances we have to learn, first and foremost, how to scale the language barrier. Jehovah's Witnesses say they believe in Jesus. The Mormons say they believe in Jesus. But which Jesus? What is the meaning that they pour into the word?

Tolerance Redefined

I have been dealing over the last several blog entries with the top ten reasons why a particular gentleman who wrote me is not a believer. These top ten reasons find their correspondence in the lives of a lot of skeptics. They have reasons why they can't accept the historic Christian faith and those reasons are very commonly expressed and that's why I'm dealing with them, not only for this gentleman but for the many people who doubt the veracity or the validity of the historic Christian faith.

One of the reasons that is given is that Jesus is not qualified to be God's representative because Jesus was intolerant. This whole idea of tolerance is bandied about a lot in our culture and the Christian faith in general is considered to be intolerant. Today tolerance is redefined to mean that all views are equally valid, and therefore, all lifestyles are equally appropriate. As such, Christ's proclamation that He is the only way is then vilified as the epitome of intolerance. Rather than capitulating to culture, we, as Christians, should be equipped to expose the flaws of this modern concept of tolerance while simultaneously exemplifying true tolerance.

First to say, "All views are equally valid" sounds tolerant, but in reality it's a contradiction in terms. If, indeed, all views were equally valid, then the Christian view must be valid. But the Christian view holds that not all views are equally valid! Thus the redefinition of tolerance in our culture is a self-refuting proposition. Moreover, we do not tolerate people with whom we agree; we tolerate people with whom we disagree. If all views were equally valid there'd be no need for tolerance at all.

Furthermore, today's redefinition of tolerance leaves no room for objective moral judgments. A modern terrorist could be deemed as virtuous as a Mother Teresa. With no enduring reference points, societal norms are being quickly reduced to mere matters of preference. As such, the moral basis for resolving international disputes and condemning intuitively evil practices like genocide or child prostitution is being seriously compromised.

In light of its philosophically fatal features Christians must reject today's tolerance and revive true tolerance. True tolerance entails that despite our differences we treat every person we meet with the dignity and respect due them as those who are created in the image of God. True tolerance does not preclude proclaiming the truth, but it does mandate that we do it with gentleness and with respect. In a world that's increasingly intolerant of Christianity we, as Christians, must exemplify tolerance without sacrificing truth. As I've said so many times, tolerance when it comes to personal relationships is a virtue, but tolerance when it comes to truth is a travesty.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Is Christ's Atonement Irrational?

I've been writing about the top ten reasons why people are not Christians as the direct result of a letter that I got and a man that I met who said "I want to talk about the reasons I will not embrace the Christian worldview."

Another reason this gentleman says he is not a believer and why, vicariously, a lot of other people say they are not believers, is that he finds the idea of humankind being tainted by one man's sin, and then redeemed by another man, Jesus Christ, irrational. This is not just wrong, in his view, it is irrational. To that I would respond, if one does not like being represented by the first man, Adam, because the idea of representation appears unfair, then perhaps that same person, in the interests of fairness, does not want to be represented by the second man, Jesus Christ.

There's nothing unfair about this. We fall in one man and we've ratified that fall. Every one of us, in the quietness of our own room, knows that we are sinners in need of a Savior. No one does right. The heart is desperately wicked. Therefore, we cannot be reconciled to an altogether loving and great God without the mediation of Jesus Christ, Who suffered more than any man, suffered more than the cumulative sufferings of all of mankind, so that we could be redeemed.

I sometimes feel as though we have diminished God and elevated man and do not see that chasm of sin that separates one from the other. Sometimes we fail to recognize that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, and that Son was willing, as the one who spoke and the universe leapt into existence, to lie prostrate in the pool of His own blood before His creation so that we might be reconciled to Him for time and for eternity. Such love, perhaps, is irrational to our way of thinking, but that is how much God loved us. He didn't need us. The Godhead was fulfilled within itself and yet He loved us enough to reconcile us to Him for time and for eternity. That is inexplicable, but not irrational.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Alleged Contradictions In the Bible

As I mentioned in an earlier post (October 2), I want to deal with some of the issues that have been brought to my awareness by one of our listeners who wrote me a letter saying that he was a non-Christian for a number of reasons. In fact he gave me his top ten reasons for why he is not a Christian. Earlier I dealt with one of his reasons, the idea of hell. He found that to be horrendously cruel, primitive and just a horrible idea.

Today I want to deal with another reason he gave, namely that the Bible is full of contradictions and thus is not a divine work of God and has to be the ruminations of human beings rather than being uniquely inspired by God.

Many of the alleged contradictions in the Bible can be reverted back to what we find in the Gospels. For example, a frequently cited alleged contradiction involves the female discoverers of the empty tomb. According to Matthew the discoverers were Mary Magdalene and another Mary. If you go to the Gospel of Mark you'll read that they were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. Luke claims that it's Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and then others. If you read the Gospel of John he focuses solely on Mary Magdalene.

To provide a defensible argument against this kind of dogmatic assertion with respect to contradictions it's helpful to point out that Gospels are complimentary, not contradictory. If John, in the example I just cited, had stipulated that Mary Magdalene was the only female to discover the empty tomb while the other Gospels claimed that more than one woman was involved, we'd be faced with an obvious contradiction. But that's not what's going on. The complimentary details provided by the Gospel writers simply serve to flush out the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey likes to say.

Not only that, but credible scholars always look for a reliable core set of facts to validate historical accounts. In other words, they look for this reliable core, and in this case liberal and conservative scholars agree that the body of Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and as a member of the Jewish court that convicted Jesus Christ to death, he's unlikely to be Christian fiction.

When we consider the role of women in the first century, Jewish people were very, very clearly oriented to thinking that women were mere chattel. What's remarkable is that the empty tomb accounts would feature females as heroes of the story. This demonstrates that the Gospel writers recorded what happened, even if they felt it culturally embarrassing.

One other point, and that is, if each of the Gospel writers presented secondary details in exactly the same way, critics would dismiss the accounts in the Gospels on the basis of collusion. Instead, the Gospels provide unique, yet mutually consistent, perspectives on the events surrounding the empty tomb. So we can safely conclude that, far from being contradictory, the Gospel accounts are clearly complimentary. A consensus of credible scholarship considers the core set of facts presented by the Gospel writers to be authentic and thus reliable, and the unique perspectives provided by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John actually preclude the possibility of collusion.

In a court of law, someone is considered innocent until proven guilty. Sadly, when it comes to the Bible people often render a guilty verdict without considering all the evidence.

Why Mormonism Isn't Christian Part 2

Mormons do not believe that the Bible is the infallible repository for redemptive revelation. In their view it's the Book of Mormon that is the most correct of any book on earth. Not only so, but in Christianity Jesus is the self-existent Creator of all things while in Mormonism he is the spirit-brother of Lucifer who was conceived in heaven by a celestial mother and came in flesh as a result of the Father having sex with the virgin Mary.

Why Momonism Isn't Christian

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was birthed back in the 1800s by an alleged vision in which two celestial personages appeared to Joseph Smith and claimed that all existing churches were wrong, that all their creeds were an abomination and that all their professors were corrupt. According to this vision Smith was chosen to restore - not reform - a church that, in his view, had disappeared from the face of the earth.

The Mormon doctrines that evolved from this vision compromise, confuse, they contradict the nature of God, the authority of Scripture and the way of salvation. In fact, while Christians believe that they're going to stand before God dressed in the spotless robes of Christ's righteousness, Mormons contend that they're going to appear before heavenly Father dressed in fig leaf aprons holding good works in their hands. According to the Latter-Day Saints just about everybody qualifies for heaven. The world's vilest people will make it into what's called the telestial heaven; lukewarm Mormons, religious people, they're typically going to enter a terrestrial heaven, and temple Mormons are going to make it to a celestial heaven. Only those who are sealed in secret temple rituals will make it to the third level of the celestial kingdom and then become gods of their own planets.

These and many other doctrinal perversions are why we exclude Mormonism from rightly being called Christian.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Every Halloween we get so many questions about Halloween. People want to know whether they should participate in Halloween, accommodate Halloween, or whether we, as Christians, ought to vigorously denounce Halloween. To answer those questions it's always helpful to have a little history or perspective on Halloween. A lot of people don't even know where Halloween came from.If you look at the background of Halloween, it's rooted in the ancient Celtic feast of Samhain. The Druids believed that on the eve of Samhain the veil between the present world and the world beyond was pierced, releasing demons, witches, and hobgoblins en mass to harass the living. In order to make themselves immune from attack people would disguise themselves as witches, devils, and ghouls to attempt to ward off evil spirits. They would also carve grotesque-looking faces on gourds illuminated with candles, and they would try to placate the spirits with a variety of treats.I think we can also learn a lot from the early Christians and how they responded to Halloween, because on October 31st, the eve prior to All Saints Day, they would designate this day as a spiritually edifying holy day on which to proclaim the supremacy of the gospel over the superstition of ghosts. So, "all Hallows Eve," from which the word Halloween is derived, was an attempt, an overt attempt on the part of Christianity, to overwhelm the tradition of ghouls with the truth of the Gospel.Today Halloween is predominately pagan, but there still is a silver lining. Like our forefathers, we can choose to celebrate "all Hallows Eve" by focusing on heroes of the faith who were willing to stand for truth no matter what the cost. We might also use today as an occasion to introduce our children to great classics or to the quintessential victory over ghouls and demons and death which is found in 1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter on resurrection. You ought to read that chapter with your children before Halloween arrives, because in the end the trick is to treat Halloween as a strategic opportunity rather than seeing it as a time of Satanic oppression. If you want more information there's a Perspective I did. It's called "Halloween: Oppression or Opportunity."

Thursday, October 4, 2007

English Translations of the Bible

I would like to reinforce in your minds where we have come to at the beginning of the 21st century. Many of you are probably not all that aware of the fact that it wasn't all that long ago that we did not have an English Bible. Indeed, until the 16th century and the invention of moveable type, the only English translation of the Bible that was extant in the world stemmed from the work of John Wycliffe. He held that the Bible, not the pope, was the exemplar of Christianity, the sole authority for faith and practice. So his writings were condemned as heresy. In other words, it was not popular, it was heresy, to translate the Bible into the English language. As a result, this outrage was condemned by the church, and 44 years after Wycliffe died Pope Martin V had his bones unearthed, incinerated, and then the ashes were unceremoniously thrown to the wind.

As significant as Wycliffe’s contribution was, though, I think no single person made a greater contribution to the legacy of the English Bible than William Tyndale. He purposed to make the Bible available to the commoner so that a boy who drives the plough would be as familiar with the Bible as the Pope. After a lengthy imprisonment Tyndale, like Wycliffe before him, was tried for translating the Bible into the English language and was martyred. His body ablaze, he cried out "Oh Lord, open the eyes of England's king." Ironically, his prayer found an answer in King Henry VIII, who authorized an English translation of the greatest volume to be chained to every church pulpit in the land. People would come from far and wide and they would experience for the first time the reading of the Word of God.

A number of years later the Geneva Bible came along and added verse numbering to the Bible and italicized English words to enhance the literary flow of the text. That became the Bible aboard the Mayflower when it set sail for America in 1620. It was the Bible of choice for William Shakespeare and John Milton and John Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrim's Progress.

Then, of course, King James I of England commissioned an English translation of the Bible which was destined to become preeminent among English Bibles. For the next 400 years the King James Version, which was commissioned in 1604 and completed in 1611, became the most cherished Bible in the English speaking world. I think it's important to recognize that the translators themselves were the leading academicians of prestigious institutions like Oxford and Cambridge and Westminster. They had a stated mission: to deliver God's Word to God's people in a language that they could understand. They carried out that mission with linguistic artistry and stylistic majesty, and I think above all else enduring reverence for the divine Author.

This King James Version would likely have remained preeminent among English Bible translations if it were not for three principle factors: the evolution of language, progress in knowledge and understanding of original biblical languages, and the discovery of earlier and better manuscripts. Recognizing the need for faithfulness to the earliest and most reliable manuscripts, the advances in our understanding of biblical languages and changes in the meaning and spelling of biblical words, my good friend Sam Moore, who is the former president of Thomas Nelson, the leading publisher of Bibles in the world, commissioned a new English translation of the Bible in 1975 which came to be known as the New King James Version of the Bible.

This legacy of a common English Bible from Wycliffe to the New King James Version in 1975 is just one part of the story. The even greater legacy, to my mind, is God's faithfulness in preserving His Word from the time of the original writings to the present.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Existence of Hell

When I got done speaking and answering questions in Boston last week and started autographing books one man walked up to me. He immediately said I was a false prophet and that I was going to go straight to hell. The reason he gave was that I taught that we are saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. He said that prior to the Reformation no one ever taught such a thing. Not only that, but he said you're saved through the Roman Catholic Church and through the Roman Catholic Church alone. If you are not part of the Roman Catholic Church you are a false prophet and you're going to go to hell. That was my first encounter.

I also encountered a man who was very sincere, an unbeliever, who is a man who believes that there are many reasons why he cannot accept the historic Christian faith but is open to reason. That's what we're looking for; people who are sincerely open to reason. This gentleman has a number of questions that I'm going to be addressing with him personally, but I thought it would be instructive to take some of those questions and deal with them in the next several blog entries. These are issues that separate people from the historic Christian faith or Christian worldview. They say it's simply irrational. "There are these unanswered questions, they nag at me, they bother me and I can't become a Christian until they're resolved." That's a problem for him and I imagine it's a problem for many other people as well.

For example, he says that the Bible teaches hell and he thinks that's a horrendously primitive and cruel concept. Or, the Bible supports slavery, or the Bible is full of contradictions, or Jesus is not qualified to be God's representative because He was mistaken about the end times - a question I've got many, many different times as I've talked to skeptics throughout the years. "I find the Bible discriminates against Gay people." Another objection, "The Bible contradicts science." Yet another, "The Bible's prophecies are unimpressive" or "I find the Bible's answer to the problem of evil unsatisfying." So we have the top ten objections here, and again, let's deal with some of them.

The first of these objections is the objection which is often raised with respect to eternal, conscious torment in hell. Why do we, as Christians, believe in hell? I've outlined this in various places, including my book Resurrection and The Bible Answer Book, Volume 1.

The first reason I believe in hell's irrevocable reality is that Christ communicated that hell was real. In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount alone He explicitly warned His followers about the dangers of hell a half a dozen or more times.

Secondly, I believe that the concept of choice demands that we believe in hell. Without hell there's no choice, and without choice heaven would not be heaven, heaven would be hell. The righteous would inherit a counterfeit heaven and the unrighteous would be incarcerated in heaven against their wills, which would be a torture worse than hell. Imagine spending a lifetime voluntarily distancing yourself from God only in the end to find yourself involuntarily dragged into His loving presence for all eternity! The alternative to hell is worse than hell itself in that it is taking humans who are made in the image of God and stripping them of freedom and forcing them to worship God against their wills.

So the first reason I believe in hell is Christ taught there was a hell and you can demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the one who spoke and the universe leapt into existence. The second reason I believe in hell is choice demands that there be a hell. Without hell there's no choice.

There's one other reason I should cite, and that is common sense dictates that there must be a hell. Without hell the wrongs of Hitler's holocaust are never going to be righted. Justice would be impugned if, after slaughtering 6 million Jews, Hitler would merely die in the comforting arms of his mistress with no eternal consequences. The ancients knew better than to think such a thing. David knew that for a time it might seem as though the wicked prosper in spite of their deeds but in the end justice would be served.

Common sense also dictates that without a hell there's no need for a Savior. Little needs to be said about the absurdity of suggesting that the Creator would suffer more than the cumulative sufferings of all of mankind if there's no hell to save us from. Without hell there's no need for salvation. Without salvation there's no need for a sacrifice, and without a sacrifice there's no need for a Savior.

As much as we might want to think that all will be saved, I think that common sense precludes the possibility. So I believe in hell first and foremost because Christ taught there was a hell. Secondly, because choice demands there be a hell. Thirdly, because common sense dictates there is a hell. I've outlined in a couple of different places: The Bible Answer Book, Volume 1 and Resurrection. We also did a feature article in the Christian Research Journal on hell.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Power, Purpose and Provision of the Devotional Life

I want to recount a lesson I learned from Joni Eareckson Tada on the power and purpose and provision that comes through the devotional life.

Some of you may recall that forty years ago Joni became a quadriplegic as the result of a diving accident. Stuck in the geriatric ward of the state institution in Maryland she'd listen for hours as her friends read stories from the Scriptures. One of her favorites was the story of a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Jesus had encountered him lying by the Pool of Bethesda and healed him. As a result of this story Joni began picturing herself lying on a straw mat right beside the Pool of Bethesda and for hours on end she would plead with God for a miraculous healing.

It seemed at that time that God did not reward her prayer with a response. Thirty years later, however, she received a revelation of sorts during a trip to Jerusalem with her wonderful husband, Ken. He pushed her wheelchair down the steps of the Via Dolorosa, made a left turn at the Sheep's Gate, walked right next to Saint Anne's Church and then ran straight into the Pool of Bethesda. While Joni was resting her arms on the guardrail overlooking those now dry, dusty ruins, her mind flashed back to those thirty years earlier that she had pictured herself lying on a mat at this very spot. Suddenly, like a thunderbolt across a clear blue sky she was struck by the realization that God had not given her the response she was looking for - He had given her a far better one. Overwhelmed with emotion she began to thank Him for not healing her. God had miraculously turned her wheelchair into her secret place.

That day she might well have cried out "Oh wheelchair, I bless thee" because it was in the prison of that wheelchair that Joni learned the secret of the devotional life. Unable to run here and there with perfectly-formed limbs, she spent hours practicing the principles of prayer. As her life grew ever richer and deeper she was enabled to bless multitudes out of the overflow of a life spent in that secret place. It was in her secret place that she discovered that there were more important things than walking, and as she has grown in intimacy with her Creator she's learned to bless the cross that crafted her character.

In our fast-food culture we're always looking for instant gratification, a cacophony of voices promise us quick fixes and instant cures when, in reality, there are none. The secret to a successful marriage is found in time spent developing a relationship with your spouse. The secret to raising kids is a function of the quality and the quantity of time spent interacting with them. The secret to a successful portfolio is directly related to understanding the fundamentals of the companies in which you invest. The secret to prayer is secret prayer, and the secret to a great devotional life is disciplining ourselves to find a secret place, a place where we can drowned out the static of the world and hear the voice of our heavenly Father.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

9/11 Anniversary

I would be remiss if I did not mention that this week marks the sixth anniversary of 9/11. There's no need to paint a word picture describing the horrors of what happened that day on September 11, 2001. The images will be forever emblazoned on our collective consciousness. Americans had long considered their country impervious to the atrocities of terrorism. To awake to a headline that screamed "Day of Evil" was unthinkable. And as I watched the twin towers of American invincibility and ingenuity crumble and collapse I could not help but pray that day six years ago that this would be a catalyst to arouse Western Christians from our luxury-induced stupor and incite us to rush to the aid of those trapped within the ruins of sin-sick souls.

As the truth of what happened on September 11th continues to set in, may it also sink in to our collective hearts that those who turn their backs on Christ's love and mercy will experience hell's irrevocable reality. The Master Himself will say to those who spurn His sacrifice "'Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

My continuing prayer is that the images of blazing fire and billowing smoke emanating from New York and Washington will arouse us as Christians from our lethargy and renew our passion to rescue the perishing from an inferno that will never be quenched. September 11, 2001 is a microcosm of what will happen to those who do not experience the transforming grace and love of Jesus Christ.

I'm back!

Many thanks to blogger.com for keeping us safe from spam blogs and other harmful activities. Unfortunately the robots that search our blogs are not perfect and mistakenly flagged my blog as spam. As you can see (since you are reading this), my blog has been cleared and we can continue commenting and posting to our hearts' content. I will be posting again shortly. Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 10, 2007

September Dawn

Recently I went to a movie called September Dawn. It was one of the most riveting movies I've seen in recent history.

It's really a story that chronicles the painful, violent way in which Mormons slaughtered the inhabitants of a wagon train passing through Utah on the way to California. And it makes clear that the historic Christian faith, not Mormonism, is the way to having peace with God. It demonstrates that the divide between Mormonism and Christianity is a divide that cannot be papered-over with mere rhetoric. It gives you glimpses into a lot of Mormon peculiarities such as blood atonement, temple sacrifices, the revelations which are given to the Mormon prophet and apostle.

In light of seeing this movie, I was reminded once again that we should understand the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which was birthed in 1820 by an alleged vision in which two celestial personages appeared to Joseph Smith and claimed that all existing churches were wrong, that all their creeds were an abomination, that all their professors were corrupt, and according to these personages Joseph Smith had been chosen to restore - restore, mind you, not reform but restore - a church that had disappeared from the face of the earth. The Mormon doctrines that evolved from this vision compromise, confuse, or outright contradict the nature of God, the authority of Scripture and the way of salvation.

Let me take just a moment to elaborate on that. First, while Christians believe that God is Spirit, Joseph Smith taught that "God Himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man who sits enthroned in yonder heavens." Mormonism also holds to a plurality of gods and contends that as man is, as we are right now, God once was, and as God is, man may become. In other words, we can become gods.

Not only so, but the Latter-day Saints compromise the nature of the God-Man Jesus Christ, and this is really the acid test. "Who do you say that I am?" asked Jesus. In Christianity the response is that Jesus is the self-evident, self-existent, Creator of all things. In Mormonism, by way of contrast, He is the spirit-brother of Lucifer who was conceived in heaven by a celestial mother and came in flesh as the result of the Father having sex with the virgin Mary. Now this is not something you paper over with rhetoric. This is a substantive difference when it comes to essential Christian doctrine. In sharp distinction to Christian theology, Mormons do not believe that the Bible is the infallible repository for redemptive revelation. In their view it is "the Book of Mormon that is the most correct of any book on earth and the keystone of our religion." Again, this is not a distinction without a difference.

And while Christians believe that they will stand before God dressed in the spotless robes of Christ's righteousness, Mormons contend that they will appear before Heavenly Father dressed in fig leaf aprons holding good works in their hands. And they believe that only those who are sealed in secret temple rituals will make it to the third level of the Celestial Kingdom and become gods of their own planets.

These and a host of other doctrinal perversions exclude Mormonism from rightly being called Christian. Again, September Dawn gives you a glimpse into how the perversions of Mormon theology have a practical implication on things that have happened in the past. I think one of the most stunning things about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which this film is all about, is that the Mormon church has not accepted responsibility for it, and I think it's high time that they did. This is not conjecture. This film is dealing with actual events that were carried out because of the supposed revelations given by God to the apostles and prophets living at that time.

It is incumbent for us to know what Mormonism teaches and to use our well-reasoned answers as springboards for opportunities for sharing the grace and love and truth that only Jesus Christ can bring to the human heart, to use the deviations of Mormonism as an opportunity to reach Mormons who are trapped in a system which is decidedly anti-biblical and against the biblical worldview.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Annihilationism Gains Ground With Christians

Just as universalism is gaining ground in liberal circles, annihilationism is gaining ground in Christian conservative circles. J. I. Packer once said that Western evangelicals live in a post-Christian, human-centered, self-absorbed, feel-good, secular culture which reduces all religion to a private hobby. The modern passion to find dignity and worth in all religions presses upon them. Their imaginations have been contaminated with the world's disgust with people like Jonathan Edwards and his attempt to make vivid the thought that without Jesus Christ we are but sinners in the hands of an angry God.

Clark Pinnock, who is a professor at McMaster's Divinity School said this:

I consider the concept of hell an outrageous doctrine. It's a bad doctrine which needs to be changed. How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon His creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards and by the Gospel itself. Surely the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is no fiend. Torturing people without end is not what our God does. Everlasting torment is intolerable from a moral point of view because it makes God into a blood-thirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for victims whom He does not even allow the dignity to die.
In response, theologian Millard Eareckson said "If one is going to describe sending persons to endless punishment as cruelty and vindictiveness and a God who would do so as more nearly like Satan than God and a blood-thirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz, he had better be very certain he is correct, for if he is wrong he is guilty of blasphemy. A wiser course of action would be restraint in one's statements just in case they might be wrong."

Annihilationism is gaining ground as we embrace a kinder, gentler theology perfectly suited to a feel-good generation. Hell's imagery is more common today in comic pages than in church pulpits. Preachers prefer to dwell on more uplifting themes. Hell has all but disappeared and no one seems to have noticed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Should Christians be tolerant?

A couple of thoughts about tolerance... because today tolerance has been redefined to mean that all views are equally valid and all lifestyles are equally appropriate. As such, the notion that we communicate here day in and day out on the Bible Answer Man broadcast that Jesus is the only way is being vilified as the epitome of intolerance. Rather than capitulating to culture, we as Christians have to be equipped, prepared to expose the flaws of today's tolerance and simultaneously exemplify the meaning of what I would call true tolerance.

The first point I'd like to make is "all views are equally valid" sounds like a tolerant statement. In reality, it's a contradiction in terms. If, indeed, all views were equally valid, then the Christian view must be valid. But here's the problem: the Christian view holds that not all views are equally valid. Thus the redefinition of tolerance in our culture is a self-stultifying or self-refuting proposition.

Not only so, we do not tolerate people with whom we agree - we tolerate people with whom we disagree. If all views were equally valid there'd be no need for tolerance. Not only so, but today's redefinition of tolerance leaves little room for objective moral arguments or judgments. A modern terrorist could be deemed as virtuous as a Mother Teresa with no enduring reference point. Societal norms are quickly being reduced to mere matters of preference. The moral basis for resolving international disputes and condemning evil practices like genocide or oppression of women is being seriously compromised.

In light of its philosophically fatal features, Christians must reject today's tolerance and revive true tolerance. True tolerance entails that despite differences we treat every single person that we encounter with dignity and respect as people who are created in the image of God. True tolerance does not preclude proclaiming the truth, but it does mandate that when we proclaim the truth we do it with gentleness and with respect. In a world that's increasingly intolerant of Christianity Christians must exemplify tolerance without sacrificing truth on the altar of today's redefinition of tolerance. Indeed, tolerance when it comes to personal relationships - as I've said so many times on the broadcast - tolerance when it comes to personal relationships is a virtue, but tolerance when it comes to truth is a travesty.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rebuilt Temple vs. The Dome Of The Rock

The destruction of the temple brought an end to the age of sacrifice for Jews in AD 70, but for Christians the age of the temple, like the age of the Law in the land, has already come to an end with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And yet, despite the fact that Jesus forever dispensed with the need for temple priests and sacrifice some two thousand years ago, Christian Zionists are bent on stoking the embers of Armageddon by scheming the destruction of yet another great Christian doctrine, and doing it by scheming the construction of another temple on the very spot where the Dome of the Rock now stands.

Tim LaHaye who, of course, is the author or co-author of the best-selling Left Behind series, goes so far as to call Mount Moriah, site of the ancient Jewish temple, "the most coveted ground in the entire world." As he puts it, "The deep significance of the 1967 Six Day War is seen in the prospect that at long last Israel can finally rebuild its temple," and that, according to LaHaye, is "not just a national yearning. It is a prophetic requirement of the Word of God."

LaHaye goes on to highlight the major obstacle. In his words, "This obstacle is the fact that the Muslims' multi-million dollar Dome of the Rock is located on the spot where the temple should be." He makes light of fellow dispensationalists who suggest that the Jewish temple could co-exist with the Muslim mosque. He says "Some have tried to suggest that perhaps this location is not the only place in Jerusalem that the temple could be built, and thus the Muslim mosque and the Jewish temple could co-exist. But" says LaHaye, "no careful Bible student would accept that kind of reasoning. There is no substitute on the face of the earth for that particular spot" says LaHaye. "There is no other single factor so likely to unite the Arabs in starting a holy war as the destruction of the Dome of the Rock."

Well, in light of the incarnation, this Zionist suggestion that the modern land of Palestine along with its capital Jerusalem, is to be reserved exclusively for a single ethnicity or that the temple must be rebuilt and its sacrificial system reinstituted, borders on blasphemy. While the modern state of Israel does have a definitive, in my point of view, a definitive right to exist, to suggest that native Palestinians - many, by the way, who are brothers and sisters in Christ - should be forcibly removed from the land is not only unbiblical, but it's unethical. By standing on the steps of the Capitol and protesting a two-state solution in the Middle East, Christian Zionists are creating an actual roadblock on the pathway to peace. Just as it's a grievous sin to turn a blind eye to the evil of anti-Semitism, so it is a grievous sin to turn a blind eye to a theology that divides people on the basis of race rather than uniting them on the basis of righteousness and justice and equity.

As we highlight in our brand new novel, Fuse of Armageddon, to presumptively appeal to the words of Moses, "I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse," which we hear over and over again from evangelical pastors and parishioners, and then use it as a pretext for unconditionally supporting a secular state that prohibits the advance of the Gospel while simultaneously disregarding the plight of the Palestinians, is to promote a theology that's not only decidedly unbiblical, but demonstratively dangerous.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Nowhere were the far-reaching consequences of such cosmogenic mythology more evident than in the pseudo-science of eugenics.[1] Eugenics hypothesized that the gene pool was being corrupted by the less fit genes of inferior people. As Michael Crichton has pointed out, the theory of eugenics postulated that “the best human beings were not breeding as rapidly as the inferior ones—the foreigners, immigrants, Jews, degenerates, the unfit, and the ‘feeble-minded’…The plan was to identify individuals who were feeble-minded—Jews were agreed to be largely feeble minded, but so were many foreigners, as well as blacks—and stop them from breeding by isolation in institutions or by sterilization.”[2]

The logical progression from evolution to eugenics was hardly a surprise. What is breathtaking, however, is the vast rapidity with which this baseless theory was embraced by the cultural elite. Crichton notes that its supporters ranged from President Theodore Roosevelt to Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Eugenics research was funded through philanthropies such as the Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations and carried out at prestigious universities such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

Legislation to address the “problem” posed by eugenics was passed in blue states ranging from New York to California. Eugenics was even backed by the National Academy of Sciences and the American Medical Association. Those who resisted eugenics were considered backward and ignorant. Conversely, German scientists who gassed the “feeble-minded” were considered forward thinking and progressive and were rewarded with grants from such institutions as the Rockefeller Foundation right up to the onset of World War II.

It wasn’t until the ghastly reality of eugenics reached full bloom in the genocidal mania of German death camps that it quietly vanished into the night. Indeed, after World War II few institutions or individuals would even own up to their fastidious belief in eugenics. Nor did the cultural elite ever acknowledge the obvious connection between eugenics and evolution.

Eugenics has faded into the shadowy recesses of history. The tragic consequences of the evolutionary dogma that birthed it, however, are yet with us today.
[1] My source for the following brief overview of the history of eugenics is Michael Crichton, “Why Politicized Science is Dangerous,” Appendix 1 from his novel State of Fear (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004), 575-80.
[2] Crichton, State of Fear, 576.